Identity theft is a serious crime impacting more than 10 million victims each year. Often, consumers first learn they are identity theft victims when they are in the process of buying or renting a home. The National Association of Realtors is working with the Federal Trade Commission to educate comsumers to minimize the risk of identity theft. This new initiative, Deter-Detect-Defend is focused on empowering consumers to protect themselves against identity and to minimize its impact.
‘Deter’ Tips to Share with Consumers
1. Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them.
2. Protect your Social Security number. Your Social Security number is the key to your identity and must be closely protected. Don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
3. Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
4. Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails; instead, type in a Web address you know. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date. Visit OnGuardOnline.gov for more information.
5. Don’t use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother’s maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
6. Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house.
‘Detect’ tips to share with consumers
Be alert to signs that require immediate attention:
1. Mail or bills that do not arrive as expected
2. Unexpected credit cards or account statements
3. Denials of credit for no apparent reason
4. Calls or letters about purchases that were not made
1. Your credit report. This contains information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history.
** The law requires the major nationwide consumer reporting companies—Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion—to give you a free copy of your credit report each year if you ask for it.
** Visit http://www.annualcreditreport.com/ or call 1-877-322-8228, a service created by these three companies, to order your free credit reports each year. You also can write: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.2. Your financial statements. Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not make.
‘Defend’ tips to share with consumers
1. Place a “Fraud Alert” on your credit reports. A fraud alert on your credit report tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open any new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. Each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies has a toll?free number you can use to place an initial fraud alert. Only one call is necessary; the company you call will notify the other two. An initial fraud alert is active for 90 days. If you want to place an extended (seven-year) fraud alert, you must follow additional procedures.
** Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
** Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
** TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.
2. Close accounts. Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
* Start by calling the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your authorization. Follow up in writing and include copies of supporting documents.
* Use the “ID Theft Affidavit,” available at ftc.gov/idtheft, to support your written statement.Get written verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts have been discharged.
* Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
3. File a police report. File a report with law enforcement officials – for example, state or local police. It will help you work with creditors who may request documentation that a crime has occurred.
4. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your information helps law enforcement officials across the country with their investigations.
** By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338), or TTY,1-866-653-4261
** By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse Federal Trade Commission 600 Pennsylvania Ave, NW Washington, DC 20580